There are many questions that you may be faced with when considering your first hamster.
Here are just a few of the common questions that are asked.
What hamster species is best for me?
This is a very common question, whether it is you that is considering your first pet hamster or you are the parent of a child that is wanting a hamster. I would always recommend the Syrian hamster as your first pet.
There are a few reasons for this. Firstly Syrian hamsters are larger than the other species and also slower, this makes them easier to handle and will enable you to be more hands on with your pet. Secondly they are more readily available from pet shops and also local breeders, they come in a wide variety of coat colours and textures and this is great for children as they get to pick their hamster for their appearance. Also there are a huge selection of cages on the market that are suitable for this larger species of hamster. The Dwarf and Chinese hamsters require a more specialised cage as they are able to squeeze through the bars of a standard cage.
Should I get a male or female hamster?
This is something than many prospective hamster owners spend pondering. This is something of a personal preference. From my experience I can say that the male hamsters tend to be more calm and laid back. This can make them easier to handle, however it may mean that they are not wanting to play so much in their cage. Female hamsters tend to be more energetic, rushing around their cage playing with all of the toys that you can give them. Female hamsters may also be slightly more smelly as they come into season every four days on average and during this time they produce more of an odour.
However saying that, this is only a general rule of thumb and every hamster has their own personality and they will not all fit this model.
What cage should I buy?
This is again personal preference, there are such a huge range of cages on the market, coming in all shapes and sizes. Some have bars, some have tubes, some are multi-leveled, there really is something for everyone.
I would always say that you should purchase the largest cage that you can afford, this is because hamsters are very active creatures and love to explore, the cage should be large enough that you can fit a suitable sized wheel as well as a couple of huts/hideouts and a few toys to keep your hamster happy and entertained.
You can even build your own hamster cage. Bin cages tend to be much more affordable to buy and you can provide your hamster with a lot more space by doing this. All of the materials that you would need to build a bin cage with are easily found at your local hardware shop or online. For instructions on how to build your very own cage by using a plastic storage box can be found here.
Should I buy one hamster or more than one?
This is a question of two parts really. If you are buying a Syrian hamster then you should only have one per cage, these hamsters are solitary by nature and will fight if kept together. Don’t be tempted to buy two because in the pet shop there is more than one per cage, this is only acceptable as they are young and they are happy to live together until they reach approximately 8 weeks of age.
Dwarf hamsters and Chinese hamsters are however slightly different. Dwarf hamsters are by nature sociable with others of their own kind, in the wild they would live in small colonies or family groups. They can generally be kept in same sex pairs or groups in captivity, but bare in mind that there are always exceptions. Hamsters are all individuals and they all have their own personalities, if fighting starts then you need to be prepared to separate the hamsters. Some hamsters just prefer to be on their own.
Chinese hamsters are different again. Females need to be kept on their own, they will fight if caged together, sometimes to the death. However males can be housed in pairs, but by the same rules as the Dwarf hamsters.
Always be prepared to separate individuals if fighting starts, especially if blood is drawn.
How long do they live?
This again varies from species to species, generally your hamster will live anything from 1.5 to 3 years. More information regarding this can be found here.
What type of toys should i buy?
There is a huge selection of toys on the market for hamsters and other small rodents. There are toys to go through, climb on, hide in and the type of toys your hamster will prefer will depend on his/her personality.
A suitable size wheel is a must. Hamsters are very active and in the wild would travel several miles each night. Running is a behaviour that every hamster will love. There are also a couple of really good silent wheels on the market, however they can be sometimes a bit pricey. But if you shop around you can always find good quality products at affordable prices. The wheel should be large enough that your hamster should be able to run without having to bend/arch their back. This is really important as this can cause health issues with the back and cause lots of pain as your hamster gets older.
Always provide your hamster with lots of places to hide and build nests, these can be in the form of plastic igloos and huts or natural wood hideouts or eve coconut shells. You can easily make your own if you have some time and are feeling artistic. If you are wanting some ideas for homemade toys and huts then feel free to browse here.
If you still have questions that you would like answered then please feel free to leave a comment below and I will do my very best to answer them for you.